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Chetty chetty bang bang: step aside Caractacus Potts, Laurie Chetwood's home is a fun palace in the country, near London and not a million miles from Hushaby Mountain.

Michael Sorkin had to be almost forcibly restrained from serially voting for the Chetwood house (not allowed, one jury member, one vote). But we were all very impressed by its inventive light heartedness, both in spatial and material terms. Curiously, its strangest effects have been achieved quite economically: the result shows the powers of an architectural imagination at play. Laurie Chetwood, his wife Roz and his two children Charlie (five) and Emily (three), live in their own self-designed, and largely self-built country retreat. When designing his own home, Chetwood has clearly had fun. In search of what he describes as sixth sense design--responding to instinct rather than intellect--he has been energetic in his inventiveness, colourful in his expression, and practical in his self-taught craftsmanship.

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The original house, which they bought over ten years ago, was a disused holiday home previously exhibited at the 1930 Ideal Home exhibition. The cedar frame and cedar clad kit-house was in need of renovation and expansion, so with a keen interest in exploring natural forms in architecture, he chose butterflies--the dominant species on the site--as his inspiration.

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In terms of building forms, a conservatory and guest suite have been built to create a split level link between the existing house and a modest weather-boarded summer house, which now functions as Chetwood's studio. This new link serves as a formal entrance hall--exploiting elevated views across the Surrey/Sussex Hills--as the climax to the route that metaphorically traces the evolutionary life cycle of a butterfly, leading visitors through the encapsulation of the chrysalis, and the vibrant colour burst as wings unfold, before taking flight to the landscape beyond.

Externally, hundreds of metres of optic fibres and irrigation pipes bring life and light to the landscaped terraces, which sit beneath the retractable wing-like canopies. While internally the playful Heath Robinson-like inventiveness continues, with bungee web chairs, a retractable dining table, operable bonnet hip vents, and five rotating screen walls that divide living and kitchen areas. Roach pole fishing rods, rowing seats and skateboard wheels are just a few of the modified objects incorporated into everyday household devices.

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Love it or hate it, the house is unique: a playful, inventive and truly scrumptious family home.

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Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:378
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